Tuesday, October 29, 2013
"Meeting Sue" - Half a Life Ago
It was 30 years ago this evening that I first met my wife. That means we have been together for just over half our lives at this point. We were both 29 when we met. It was at a Saturday night Halloween party in Baltimore. I could recount it here; but instead I’ll just re-post the story of that night; and the week which followed. The rest, as they say, is history. The above photo was taken several months later in Virginia Beach. I am dressed as usual, while Sue is in costume.
I arrived back in New York and stayed briefly with Mark and Lois. I wanted to get back to school quickly and obtain my Third mates License. By October 8th, 1983 I was back in Baltimore, this time renting a one room “flat” on the corner of Eager and Calvert Street. This was still on the edge of the gay neighborhood and just 3 blocks North of Peabody Institute and the Washington Monument. With a kitchen alcove area and a main room for sitting and sleeping it was all I needed. It was also just a half story above street level.
I set about, as usual, in making friends with my neighbors. These included two girls who were studying Chamber Music at Peabody. Their names were Mary and Mary. So I called them M and M. On Sunday mornings around 11 AM they would come down to my place for brunch. I would make stuffed mushroom caps with crab meat and pour the wine while they played Cello and Violin for me. Not too bad a trade when you think about it.
I had been seeing a girl named Mari before I left and had bought her back a beautiful enameled 20 karat gold ring from Turkey. But things were kind of “not there” between us and so I found myself looking at a lonely birthday in Baltimore. And to make matters worse I was without weed and had stopped drinking. This was going to be a lot of fun….
Walking around and hoping to meet someone to celebrate with I started drifting toward the “bad” side of Eutaw Street and into the area where pot was sold openly. I asked around a bit but nobody wanted anything to do with me. I was in good shape, well fed and they decided I was a cop! So I finally went into my birthday spiel-“Hey it’s my birthday and I just got into town, don’t know anyone etc.” No one believed me and I finally had to show someone my ID with my birthday on it in order to get some grass!
School was good and I was making a lot of progress. I had to get my CPR certification and some other Red Cross stuff so I signed up for the classes at the local Red Cross. I forget what the exercise was but you had to pull someone around on a blanket. My partner was some Jewish girl who was about my age and had a ticking biological clock. You could actually hear her planning the wedding and everything. But that didn't prevent me from asking her out and we saw each other a few times but “no spark” for me.
It was getting near to Halloween, which was at that time one of my favorite holidays. The parties and costumes all added up to some fun and I was looking forward to it. The Thursday night before Halloween a short chain of events began that would have a serious impact on my life.
I was walking by the old Greyhound Station on Howard and Monument Street when I noticed a woman being hounded by an older black guy. He was obviously following her and she was obviously uncomfortable with it. He was talking to her in a lecherous way and you could see her fear.
Crossing the street I walked up behind them both from an angle and slipping my arm into hers I smiled and said to her, “Sorry I’m late.” Fixing him with a glare I said, “Thanks for watching out for my girl, bro.” And then I walked her around the corner and out of sight.
Dropping her arm I apologized and she assured me there was no need to, as she needed the rescue. Her name was Mary and as we walked along a bit I let her know we should split up now as I could be part of a scam. She seemed pretty unconcerned but agreed. She also suggested that I meet her on Saturday night at an activist Church nearby that was hosting a Halloween Party. I agreed and we parted.
I decided to go to the party at the Church because I was kind of sick of the bar scene at the time. And the fact that Mary would be waiting for me was a definite enticement. The big question was what to go as. I finally decided to go as a Tom cat- you know- looking for a kitty. So I took a wire hangar and stretched it out to an acceptable length- then I added a grey scarf which I wound around the hangar/tail and topped that off with some swirls of masking tape. Attaching the wire hangar to my rear belt loop and adding some whiskers to my face with a blackened cork, I was off to the races.
The Church was one of those “activists” ones. By that I mean they were really not that religious- they were kind of a gathering spot for political activists touting such causes as El Salvador, Legal Defense Funds, Battered Women, and After School Care etc.
Mary was there waiting with some friends and the party was already started. There was a band playing and they had some really tacky disco lights going. The biggest surprise of the evening was when Mary and I were dancing and she started doing cartwheels and all sorts of splits to the music. Turned out she was a gymnast and I started thinking of all the fun we might be having later on utilizing her skills…
Her friends were a group of 6 really nice looking women- some doing post graduate work, some still working towards degrees and a couple of guys who were reading Law in prep for the Bar. A very interesting crowd…
Some slow dancing began and Mary and I enjoyed the closeness and we shared a first kiss. The night was progressing nicely when at about midnight Mary got ready to go. I was confused by this. She was leaving alone and passing me on to her friends. We agreed to call one another etc.
Around 1 AM the friends, none of whose names I recall, invited me to accompany them by van to another party at the Activists Lawyers League. This party was being held at the old Enoch Pratt Free Library on the corner of Kirk and Gorsuch Streets in East Baltimore. There were lawyers and aspiring lawyers everywhere. There was lots of liquor and music, too.
I set about dancing with the ladies who had brought me there. Then I started dancing with women who asked me. I was having a great time when I spotted a woman who was standing off by herself and looking like she was not having the best of times. So I approached her and asked for a dance. She turned me down, flat and cold. “No, thanks.” The Iron Curtain. So I went back to dancing with this one and that one. But it really bugged me that this one woman wouldn't dance with me. So I asked again-same results. “No, thanks.”
After about the third time I’m thinking, “What’s her problem- it’s just a dance, not a commitment!” So I asked her again in a different way. “I've danced with every woman here tonight and you’re the only one that said no. Dance with me and I’ll leave you alone forever.” Reluctantly she began to dance- with me talking as we did. I was telling her that I had just got back from Turkey and Lebanon and when the music stopped we kept talking. Her name was Karen. As we were talking she told me, “I have 2 kids so if that’s a problem let me know.”
After a bit some friends of hers were going outside to smoke a joint and I readily agreed. We went and huddled at the bottom of the basement steps and smoked a few before heading back in. Karen had gone to the party at the urging of some neighbors and friends.
A little while later I felt a finger trace up my back and turning around I was looking at Karen who said, “My name’s in the book.” She gave me her address and left. It was about 3 AM. I left shortly afterward and passing a phone booth I looked her up. The address was incorrect and the name didn’t quite match. It said K. Sue Hart. Still I walked home in the frigid early morning air, warmed by the evening and the dancing.
The next day I called the number in the book, which was now changed, so I called the new number. Turned out to be the right one- her name was Karen Sue. She went by the name of Sue and used the name Karen as a way of confusing the jerks and would be stalkers. We talked for hours and then agreed to meet for Chinese food on Tuesday night. She would get a sitter. After explaining that I had no car she offered to pick me up at my apartment.
Tuesday arrived and the day seemed interminably long as I waited for the evening to arrive. I was waiting at my window when her car turned the corner of Calvert and Eager Street. She parked and rang my bell.
I opened the door and there she was- blond hair with green eyes. Looking shyly down she handed me a bunch of flowers! We left for dinner almost immediately and walked to Tony Cheng’s which was only 3 blocks away.
We had Peking duck and talked about ourselves. She was divorced with 2 boys, 8 and 6 years old. Their names were Keith and Shane. She was originally from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and had left because of the small town atmosphere. They actually listed the divorces in the local newspaper. This kind of stigmatized the ladies in certain ways. Also the job market would be easier to crack in Baltimore so she moved down 2 years earlier and took a job at Social Security Headquarters. She had put a down payment on a small house nearby and began her life anew.
We went back to my place after dinner and talked a bit more. There really was no place to sit other than on the edge of my bed or at the tiny kitchen table. We chose the edge of the bed. It wasn't long before I kissed her. We lay back on the bed and kissed again. Things were going well when she suddenly sat bolt upright and told me she had to go- the sitter was only staying until 10 PM and it was 9:30 now.
We made arrangements to meet on Saturday morning at her place to drive the kids to their Dad’s for the weekend. We spoke on the phone every day that week while waiting for Saturday to arrive. When it did I took a cab to her house and met the kids for the first time.
They were typical kids, running and shouting. They seemed uninterested in me, like I was just one of many passing through. We drove up to Chambersburg, dropped them off and then Sue showed me around her home town and introduced me to some friends. I got the feeling she was showing me off!
We arrived back in Baltimore that evening and I made my famous NY Strip Steak covered with Back Fin Lump Crabmeat and then topped with Muenster cheese. Dinner was about ready when Sue suggested we have dessert first…